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Health & Safety

Know your rights. Every worker or employee in the UK (full time, part-time, temporary or permanent) has certain rights which should ensure that they can carry out their job in a safe and healthy environment.

Latest HSE fatality figures show little change

The annual statistics report from the Health and Safety Executive has just been released and show little change in the number of people killed at work.

The HSE report for 2011-12 reveals a total of 173 workplace fatalities, just two down on the previous year, though the number of major injuries to employees did show a fall on previous years and the number of “over three day” reported injuries was also down on the figures for 2010-11, part of a continuing downward trend within the past eight years.

In total there were 111,164 non-fatal injuries at work, of which 22,433 were described as major injuries. Handling, lifting and carrying accidents were responsible for almost a third, with slips or trips causing 24% of the injuries reported.

There were 680 cases in Britain which were prosecuted for health and safety breaches and this led to 630 convictions and a total of £16.9 million in fines received. There were 551 prosecutions in England and Wales alone, an increase of 6% on the year before. The North West of England saw the greatest number of fatal injuries to workers and was also the area with the most cases prosecuted by the HSE.

The HSE report also found that Britain had a low rate of fatalities compared with the other major European economies of Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland, while non-fatal injuries were at a comparable level. Britain performed better than many other European countries in terms of accidents, fatalities and levels of self-reported work-related ill health.

There were a total of 27 million working days lost overall with 22.7 million due to work-related ill health and 4.3 million due to workplace injury. The estimated cost of the absences from work was £13.4 billion in 2010-11.


The basic rights of each individual worker can be summarised as follows: [Source: Official Health & Safety Executive website]

All employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees, and any other people who might be affected by the business that is being conducted. An employer must do whatever is “reasonably” practicable to achieve this objective. The reasonability test is strict and employers must recognise that they have a high duty of care in most circumstances.

The employer musts make sure that staff and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace. Your employer has duties under health and safety law to assess risks in the workplace. “Risk assessments” are crucial in todays working environment and should be carried out to explore all possible risks that might cause injury or harm in the workplace. An employer must provide information about the risks in the workplace environment and explain how staff are protected

You have the right:

  • To work in safe workplaces where all the risks to your health and safety are properly controlled.
  • To stop working and leave the area if you think you are in danger.
  • To inform your employer about health and safety issues or concerns.
  • To contact HSE or your local authority if you still have health and safety concerns and not get into trouble.
  • To join a trade union and be a safety representative.
  • To a rest break of at least 20 minutes if you work more than six hours at a stretch.
  • To an annual period of paid leave.

Your employer must tell you:

  • About risks to your health and safety from current or proposed working practices.
  • About things or changes that may harm or affect your health and safety. Such as working with asbestos or in noisy environments that could lead to industrial deafness.
  • How to do your job safely. This should include preventing vibration white finger and similar injuries.
  • What is done to protect your health and safety.
  • How to get first-aid treatment.
  • What to do in an emergency.

Your employer must provide, free of charge:

  • Training to do your job safely.
  • Protection for you at work when necessary (such as clothing, shoes or boots, eye and ear protection, gloves, masks etc).
  • Health checks if there is a danger of ill health because of your work.
  • Regular health checks if you work nights and a check before you start.

About The Health & Safety Executive

The Health and Safety Commission is responsible for health and safety regulation in Great Britain.

The Health and Safety Executive and local government are the enforcing authorities who work in support of the Commission. Their objective or mission is to protect people’s health and safety by ensuring risks in the changing workplace are properly controlled.

For immediate accident claim assistance please telephone our Freephone accident helpline on HELPLINE TBA Read more about electrical issues involving PAT tests and electrical safety in the UK. Also – what to do when you have been injured at work. .

HSE – Risk assessment update:

The Health & Safety Executive launched a campaign to educate employers and businesses on best practice in relation to risk assessments.

From the official site:   “We believe that risk management should be about practical steps to protect people from real harm and suffering – not bureaucratic back covering. If you believe some of the stories you hear, health and safety is all about stopping any activity that might possibly lead to harm. This is not our vision of sensible health and safety – we want to save lives, not stop them. Our approach is to seek a balance between the unachievable aim of absolute safety and the kind of poor management of risk that damages lives and the economy”.

Sensible risk management is about:

  • Ensuring that workers and the public are properly protected
  • Providing overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on reducing real risks – both those which arise more often and those with serious consequences
  • Enabling innovation and learning not stifling them
  • Ensuring that those who create risks manage them responsibly and understand that failure to manage real risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action
  • Enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility
  • Sensible risk management is not about:
  • Creating a totally risk free society
  • Generating useless paperwork mountains
  • Scaring people by exaggerating or publicising trivial risks
  • Stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals where the risks are managed
  • Reducing protection of people from risks that cause real harm and suffering

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